Stanislaus Markoski: The Lyman Mills Years

When I first glanced over Stanislaus’ life, I thought I could make a quick post about his life in Holyoke. Was I wrong! I started seeing his life in sections, and it’s only fair to him that I go one step at a time.

Lyman Mills Corporation was founded in 1854, just four years after Holyoke was incorporated as a city. It was built between two of the canals that were carved into the city off the Connecticut river, along Lyman Street. It specialized in textile making for both fine and coarse goods. Lyman Mills also built tenement housing next to the factory for its workers. It grew quick enough for an expansion in 1891 and was employing 1,200 workers by 1900. Many of its workers were immigrants from Poland, French Canada and Ireland. It seems that Stanislaus was one of those workers hired during this growth spurt.

Lyman Mills, circa 1921. Courtesy “Textile World” in Google Books.

Stanislaus first shows up in the Holyoke City Directories in 1895, working at Lyman Mills and living in one of the tenements at 18 Oliver Street. I suspect that it was at the mill where Stanislaus met his future wife, Johanna Gazda. The register where their 1896 marriage is recorded indicates that both lived in Holyoke and both were “mill operators”. As previously mentioned, they were married either on June 30 or July 1 (I suspect it was June 30–that register even includes a time married: 6:55pm) in Holyoke by Father Francis Chalupka of Chicopee, who presided over the Polish Catholics prior to September 1896 formation of Mater Dolorosa Church. It would not surprise me if they were among the first members of the church, which first met in the basement of the Holy Rosary Church. I’m not sure where Holy Rosary Church was, but eventually in 1901, Mater Dolorosa was built on the corner of Maple and Lyman Streets, just a few short blocks from the tenements.

Mater Dolorosa Church. Courtesy Wikipedia.

In the earliest years of their marriage, Stanislaus and Johanna lived in various tenements on Oliver Street (numbers 4, 8 and 11), which (if you look carefully), you can find on the insurance map here. In 1902, they finally settled at 116 Lyman Street, where they remained until 1915 with their large and growing family. Stanislaus and Johanna ended up having ten children, seven of whom survived to adulthood. I will list the English names that they were eventually known by, noting the Polish names if I could find them. All were born in Holyoke, except as noted:

  • John, born August 6, 1897 and died August 9, 1897 (reason unknown). (I assume he was named after Stanislaus’ father.)
  • Max (Mieczyslaw), born April 2, 1899.
  • Stephen G., born June 16, 1901.
  • Joseph, born February 15, 1903 and died November 19, 1903 from meningitis. He supposedly is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Chicopee.
  • Edward I., born October 16, 1904 and died May 30, 1913 from some sort of complication from scarlet fever. His death certificate says he is buried at Notre Dame Cemetery in South Hadley, but they don’t seem to have a record of his burial.
  • Doris M. (Domilla or Domilly), born December 6, 1907 in Polish Austria.
  • Robert P. (Roman?), born March 19, 1910.
  • Anita F. (Antonia), born July 11, 1912.
  • Bruno August (Bronislaw), born December 19, 1913.
  • Charles D. (Casmir), born January 30, 1915.

I just wanted to note that in the 1910 Census, while Stanislaus and Johanna already had five living children, they took in six additional boarders! Needless to say, the tenements were quite crowded.

As written in many history books, work at the mills was hard. Workdays often spanned over twelve hours, and I’m sure the pay, however fair, was not high. With those long exhausting days, I’m surprised that Stanislaus had enough energy to build such a large family! Eventually, he found other nearby opportunities, which we will start to look at in the next post.

Lyman Mills building today. Courtesy Google Earth.

Research Notes: Lyman Mills eventually closed in 1927, although the mill buildings are still standing. ¬†There is an extensive collection of Lyman Mills corporate, financial and other records in Harvard Business School’s Baker Library Historical Collections, including employment and tenement records. Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke also has some records about Lyman Mills’ housing. If I’m in either of these areas, it is probably worth a look.